young girl high kicking

Turning Fidgets Into Karate Kicks: Some Find That Martial Arts Ease Attention Disorders

New York Times
By SUSAN SAULNY

The karate class that Daniel Povzhitkov attends begins in meditative silence, then explodes into the kata, a choreographed sequence of blocking, kicking and punching. The 10 children then glide into a series of jumping front kicks and back elbow strikes in their little white gis, all solemn-faced and graceful. The only noise is an occasional grunt, or a command muttered in Japanese.

What is on display here, for most of the children in the small, bare room, is just another day of after-school martial arts fun — a showing of the class’s coordination, strength and precision. But for 12-year-old Daniel, it is something more. His mother, Natalia Povzhitkov, believes that for Daniel, who has attention deficit disorder, karate is therapy, too.
At the school in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, where Daniel studies, and at other martial arts centers in New York and across the country, some parents say they have discovered a therapeutic element to the martial arts that helps children with attention deficit disorder cope. Many doctors support that idea, as do several national nonprofit resource groups for people with the disorder, including the National Attention Deficit Disorder Association and Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. They say that such courses help ease the symptoms of the disorder: impulsiveness, inability to concentrate and, in some cases, hyperactivity.

”I talk about this all the time because I think it’s a huge intervention,” said Dr. John J. Ratey, an associate professor of clinical psychology at Harvard Medical School. ”It’s becoming very popular as a means of treatment.”

This theory, however, is dismissed by other experts who say that it is nothing more than wishful thinking. They point to the dearth of medical studies to back up the theory, which has become a matter of intense debate among professionals.

”I think much of this is driven by the wish that children did not need medicine,” said Dr.
Theodore Shapiro, who is the director of child and adolescent psychology at the Payne WhitneyClinic and a professor of psychology at Weill-Cornell Medical College. ”If you’re around for along time, you see these new waves come and go, and you become cautious.”

But such doubts have not diminished support for the idea from parents who say they have seen results.

”It’s sort of a known fact in communities with people who have these issues,” said Lynne-Ann Walsh, whose son Christopher, 8, has an attention disorder. He studies kung fu at Nabi Su martial arts school in SoHo to help him focus on coordination, concentration and to overcome fidgeting. ”It has been a very positive experience,” she said.

Of course, the martial arts are no panacea, and parents involved say they know that. None
interviewed for this article said they had abandoned medication in favor of karate or kung fu.

But they also said that the benefits of martial arts study were manifold, augmenting medical
treatment by specifically focusing on the aspects of personality that A.D.D. affects — most
importantly, the ability to concentrate.
But if the children are already medicated, some experts ask, who is to know whether the benefitscome from the medicine or from karate?
Dr. Ratey, who has written several books about attention disorders, a couple of which includesections on the benefits of the martial arts, said that exercise coupled with medication does a lotmore than medication alone. While exercise in general would benefit those with such disorders,he said, martial arts helps moreso than, say, baseball or soccer.

”There is no doubt that something in the brain is changing” when individuals with attention
disorders study the martial arts, Dr. Ratey said. ”We make a lot of metaphorical leaps here, andwe don’t know what’s happening for sure.”

The martial arts demand a kind of concentration that forces coordination of the attention
centers in the brain: the frontal cortex, the cerebellum and the limbic system, Dr. Ratey said.
That coordination skill is erratic when individuals have attention disorders, he added. The
martial arts, which are repetitive, slow, structured and individualistic, facilitate a learning of the coordination skill that is digestible for those with attention disorders, he said, adding that dancing and gymnastics might have similar benefits.

”This is not a cure,” Dr. Ratey added, ”but it is certainly a useful intervention.”

Mrs. Povzhitkov does not need convincing. Just that Daniel can perform the kata, which his
symptoms would have rendered impossible a few years ago, makes it clear that karate classes help his condition, she said. Daniel was aggressive and hyperactive, his mother said, describing him as ”all over the place.” When he was about 5, she said, she began to consider enrolling him in a martial arts course to instill discipline.

”But I was advised against it by people who said, ‘If he’s already aggressive, why put him in
something that is also aggressive?’ ” she said. ”But I did not agree.”

Karate became an outlet for Daniel’s aggression, his mother said, but it also taught him how to stay calm and focused. Slowly, she said, she noticed changes in his behavior inside and outside the martial arts school, or dojo. He still takes a dose of medication on school mornings, but Mrs. Povzhitkov, who is a registered nurse and has a master’s degree in teaching, said Daniel would not be as well developed mentally or physically without karate.

”I think karate obviously contributed tremendously with identifying his problems and helping him learn how to deal with them,” she said.

That seems to be how many professionals see the martial arts and medication working best, as part of a comprehensive treatment program.

”Conceptually it makes sense to me, and I’ve seen it work clinically, but the martial arts are not a substitute for behavioral therapy or medication,” said Dr. Peter Jaksa, the president of the National Attention Deficit Disorder Association, who is also a clinical psychologist. ”I wouldn’t want to see parents take kids out of treatment and say, ‘Let’s just do karate.’ ”

But some doctors do not advocate karate at all. One, midway through a strongly worded
sentence, hung up the phone in disgust after a reporter raised the topic. Before disconnecting he did say: ”I don’t want my name connected with that.” Others expressed concern about the lack of evidence and the staying power of what they said could turn out to be a trend. None, however, said the exercise would have adverse effects.

”There’s no real evidence about the martial arts, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good for you,” Dr. Shapiro said.

Ritalin is the most common medication prescribed by doctors for attention and hyperactivity disorders, doctors said. They also estimate, conservatively, that about 6 percent of school-age children suffer from such disorders. Some estimates are as high as 14 percent. The most beneficial of the martial arts for children with the disorder are the ones that have less a focus on contact fighting, like akido, or seido karate, which includes meditation, parents and instructors said. The meditation forces a ”certain level of calm and concentration,” according to Paul Sookdar, 34, the black belt instructor and founder of the Riverdale Seido Karate dojo. John Mazzoni, 11, who has attention deficit disorder, studies karate with Mr. Sookdar. He said that his school work and behavior had improved since he started karate. John attributes the changes to what he has learned with Mr. Sookdar.

”Before I started taking karate I couldn’t focus all that well,” John said. ”But after I started, I learned that you have to concentrate on the kyoshi — the teacher — and yourself to get the
movements right. And that just carried over into school and everything changed.”

Mr. Sookdar’s dojo has become well known in the Riverdale area and beyond as a sort of
resource for children with the disorder, although it has never been advertised as such and most children in the course do not have it. Parents spread the word themselves, said Mary Mazzoni, John’s mother, and Mrs. Povzhitkov.
Mr. Sookdar, who has been decorated in international karate tournaments, is known as a
formidable opponent. But in the dojo, ”we have a different way of thinking,” he said. ”We try to incorporate fighting, form and meditation so we’re all well rounded. I focus on strength, but that’s not the main goal. I’m not out to make a bunch of bullies.”

Mr. Sookdar, a native of Trinidad, began studying karate at the height of Bruce Lee’s popularity in film, he said. He was a small child, he said, and an easy target for bullies. Mr. Sookdar said his father thought martial arts classes would help build his confidence and self-esteem. Karate soon became one of the most important aspects of his life.
Eight years ago, with money inherited after his mother’s death, he opened the school in
Riverdale. This year, his enrollment base was large enough for him to quit his day job as a
software developer at the New York Stock Exchange to concentrate on karate full time.
Parents say Mr. Sookdar, whom the students call ”Kyoshi Paul,” has a special effect on children.

”Kyoshi Paul has helped me become better with my discipline and coming here has helped me not get so frustrated,” said Daniel, a green belt wrapped around his lean body, after class one recent Thursday night.

John also says that his life has changed. He said he remembered the exact day everything
improved: second marking period, third grade. That is when the N (needs improvement)
changed to an S (satisfactory) in the behavior column of his report card. He had been studying karate a few weeks. ”Self control,” he said. ”I learned it in the dojo.”

Smart but Helpless Kids: Can Your Child Make It In the Real World?

Some of the highest rated television series for adolescents and teens today focus on what would happen if society was suddenly thrown into the ultimate test for survival—like surviving the zombie apocalypse. How would you stay alive if you had to hunt and grow your own food, search for fresh sources of water and live without electricity, using only your wits and skills? The truth is most kids don’t possess those extraordinary life skills, let alone the mundane ones we all need to make it in the real world—like balancing the checkbook.
How many children today know how to patch holes in a pair of jeans or prepare a meal from
scratch? In our world of instant gratification, it’s so much quicker to run to the mall for a new pair of pants, microwave a frozen dinner or hit the drive thru, where your food is two minutes and 20 feet away.

Over the past several decades, our society has moved increasingly toward “doing for” our
children rather than “teaching how.” Are there things you’re doing for your child that he or she is capable of doing for themselves? If your 10-year-old child or grandchild has ever shown you how to work your computer or phone, you know that the generation we are raising now is bright and full of promise. Their skillset is often based in technology. Don’t get us wrong. Those are great, necessary skills to have in today’s world. But what about those other skills? The ones that get us through power outages, budget crunches, stressful situations with people and daily tasks that require perseverance and problem solving? How can we strengthen this generation’s foundation of life skills?

A Culture of Caretaking
Over the past several decades, our society has moved increasingly toward “doing for” our
children rather than “teaching how.” Why? Well, to start with, because we can. In the “Old Days,” children played an essential role in the survival of the family. They helped farm the land, took care of the younger children, gathered eggs and prepared meals. Over time, a child’s role became less of contributor and more of receiver. Instead of earning material things once worked toward as a family (computers, televisions, phones), expensive items became Christmas and birthday gifts. Schools began giving more and more homework, focused on the skills needed for today’s modern world (advanced math, computer science, communications) and there was a movement away from classes such as Home Economics and Family Life. Remember sewing pillows and measuring ingredients in Home Ec? Building bookcases in Woodshop class? Today’s 11-year-old is spending hours at night learning Algebra, something most of us didn’t encounter until high school.

Meanwhile, our culture focuses less and less on teaching our children the skills we all grew up learning. They simply don’t know how to do some of the things we ask of them. And let’s face it, sometimes after working 8-10 hours, it’s just easier to clean the bathroom ourselves rather thantry to teach a 15-year-old who cries, “But I don’t know HOW to clean the toilet!”

Assess Your Child’s Skills: It’s Never Too Late to Learn – or to Teach
Do a quick mental assessment of your child’s basic life skill knowledge. There are no set rules on what a child of certain age “should” know. It’s a judgment call. As parents, we want to prepare our children for “the Real World.” Much of that world is dealing with technology; but much of it isn’t. To start, you can pick a skill you think your child would be interested in or good at. What are his strengths or things she enjoys? Or are there some skills you think would be valuable for your child to have, that he or she hasn’t learned yet? Doing laundry from start to finish (sorting whites from colors, measuring detergent, knowing what is washed in cold vs. hot)? Making a sandwich? Chopping vegetables for a salad? Working with a sibling to wash dishes? (This is also an opportunity to learn skills of cooperation and managing emotions such as frustration and irritability!) Shopping at the grocery store and staying within a budget? Using the post office to mail an actual letter? One mom we know expressed shock that her 23-year-old son had no idea how to make out an envelope: “He wasn’t sure where to put the address!” Think about what’s reasonable for your child’s age and be careful not to underestimate their abilities.

Are there things you’re doing for your child that he or she is capable of doing for
themselves? If so, the next time your daughter needs to return some jeans at the mall, instead of taking them up to the sales clerk yourself, consider coaching her through it, from walking up to the counter to showing the receipt, to actually making sure she gets the correct amount of money back.

The Benefits of Skill Building with Children and Teens
Teaching the “how to” of life skills with your child not only helps with responsibilities at home. It helps your child in five ways:

Increased Capability
The first obvious benefit in teaching your child life skills is in learning the task itself. It’s much better for your son or daughter to learn skills over time than to try to cram in everything they need to know at the age of eighteen (or older) as they prepare to move out on their own (and they become overwhelmed).

More Confidence
The more capable a child or teen is at completing tasks, the more confident he or she will feel in a variety of situations. For example, teaching your 7-year-old son to go up to the McDonald’s counter and ask for ketchup (rather than expecting you to do it for him) can help him build confidence that he is capable of interacting with people in the public. Years later, he is unafraid to pick up the phone and order a pizza or call a business to inquire about their moving van rates. This may sound simple, but it’s a great example of daily living skills, how they begin at a young age and can be generalized to a variety of situations. Many young adults we know experience anxiety about their abilities to talk to others effectively. They worry that they will look foolish or make a mistake. Anxiety can lead to procrastinating. A young adult is more likely to postpone applying for a job if he is nervous about the interview or insecure about his capabilities. Life skills training can positively impact his or her ability to apply online for a job or walk into a store to ask
for an application.

Strengthening the Parent-Child Relationship
Teaching life skills is an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your child. It’s time well spent and can lead to a stronger bond. You may remember learning a task as a child: baking cookies with your grandma; learning to fish with your grandfather; fixing a bicycle chain or changing a tire with your dad. Learning life skills doesn’t have to be a “chore.” It can be fun—an opportunity to spend time together, strengthening your bond through a shared experience.

Recovering from Mistakes
One of the greatest lessons we can pass on to our children is that we all make mistakes.
Sometimes when we’re baking those cookies, they burn. Sometimes when we’re out fishing, we accidentally knock over the tackle box. Changing tires can be tricky and lug nuts get
lost. Practicing life skills such as cleaning, fixing, building and cooking teaches us that sometimes we get it right the first time—and sometimes we don’t. It teaches us to get back up and try again. It teaches us what to do differently the next time, so the dinner doesn’t burn. Practicing life skills teaches us that mistakes are okay, even expected, when learning a new skill. Remember to be
patient with your child. After all, it’s the process of learning that’s most valuable.

Values…A Nice Side Effect
As your child learns life skills such as cleaning a bedroom (cleaning it well—not just shoving
everything under the bed or in the closet), he learns to value his possessions. He also learns the self-respect that comes with taking care of yourself and your things.

Skills that Make a Difference in the Real World
Let’s face it. Your child may never acquire the life skills needed to vanquish zombies. But he can learn a wide range of skills that will make him more effective in daily life. Preparing our kids for life as adults can range from housecleaning, preparing food, learning to budget and operating appliances to more person-centered skills like negotiating with others, learning to apologize, ordering meals in restaurants politely and showing respect to others in ways as basic as putting your cell phone away at dinner. By learning and mastering tasks, your child will gain a sense of confidence and capability that can last a lifetime.

The Psychology of Winning

Positive Self -Awareness

Winners know who they are, what they believe, the role in life they are
presently filing, their great personal potential- and future roles and goals which
will mark fulfillment of that potential. They have learned these things, and are
constantly adding to their knowledge, through experience, insight, feedback, and
judgment. As a result they can continuously not only “play from strength” in the
game of life, but also avoid errors and correct weaknesses. They don’t kid others
and they don’t kid themselves.

Losers say, “Who knows what I could do if I only had a chance.”

Winners say, “I know who I am, where I’m coming from and where I’m
going.”

Make this moment the moment of truth about yourself. You have been
selling yourself short all of your life. You have the opportunity to experience more
environmental, physical and mental/spiritual abundance than you could use in ten
lifetimes. Open up your lenses to the possibilities and alternatives available in
your life. Change your attitude and your lifestyle and your many environments will
change automatically. Understand your own uniqueness. Appreciate the
difference in others. Relax and learn to respond positively to stress. Change for
the better that which can be changed. Remove from your presence those
negative influences that cannot be changed. Adapt and adjust to those negative
influences that cannot be changed or removed.

5 Keys to Health and Happiness

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The 5 Keys to Wealth and Happiness

by Tony Robbins

We all have the ability to take absolute charge of our lives—but having the ability isn’t the same as using it.

Life is full of pitfalls that prevent us from maximizing our full potential. The 5 Keys to Wealth and Happiness is your map to where some of these pitfalls are, and your guide to overcoming them. If you master these keys, there’s no limit to what you can do!

Key #1: You must learn how to handle frustration.

Frustration can kill dreams. It can change a positive attitude into a negative one, an empowering state into a crippling one.
Look at almost any great success, and you’ll find there’s been massive frustration along the way. All successful people know to plow through roadblocks, using each setback as a learning experience.

Key #2: You must learn how to handle rejection.

Is there anything in the human language that stings more than “no?” How often have you decided not to try for a position at your company, make a sales call, or take an audition because you didn’t want to be rejected? There are no real successes without rejection. The more rejection you get, the better you are, the more you’ve learned, and the closer you are to your outcome.

Key #3: You must learn to handle financial pressure.

Handling financial pressure is about knowing how to get and how to give, knowing how to earn and how to save. Money is like anything else in life; you can make it work for you, or against you. Learn to deal with financial pressure with the same purpose and elegance as other things in your life, so money is no longer a source of unhappiness or compromised ideals.

Key #4: You must learn to handle complacency.

“It’s not the events of your life that determine how you feel and act, but rather the way you interpret and evaluate those experiences.” – Anthony Robbins

We’ve all seen people—celebrities, athletes, business owners, etc.—who reach a level of success and then stop. Comfort can be a disastrous emotion because when we get too comfortable, we stop growing, creating, sharing and adding value. The key to managing complacency is to stay focused on your vision and make sure you don’t “major in minor things.”

Key #5: Always give more than you expect to receive.

This is the most important key because it virtually guarantees true happiness. Most people spend their time thinking about how they can receive. Our lives change the moment we change our focus from what we can get to what we can give. The key to any relationship is you have to give first and then keep on giving. Don’t stop and wait to receive!